A federal court judge accepted briefs filed by T-Mobile and Verizon opposing an injunction against Samsung devices in the U.S., dealing a setback to Apple’s patent lawsuit against the South Korean company.
Judge Lucy Koh Friday, while accepting the briefs, said Apple couldn’t submit a rebuttal argument, but denied T-Mobile’s request to speak during a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion scheduled for October 13.
Apple wants an injunction blocking Samsung’s Galaxy S 4G, the new Infuse 4G and the Droid Charge smartphones, along with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, claiming all four devices infringe on Apple’s patent portfolio. If the courts approve Apple’s request, the devices would be banned until a trial is held.
Verizon, though, says the injunction could impede its upcoming 4G LTE network rollout and T-Mobile claims a ban would hurt their business, which depends heavily on Samsung’s phones.
Both briefs are now part of evidence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the judge will agree with Verizon or T-Mobile to stop the injunction. The briefs will likely be used as supplemental information, but the burden will remain on Apple to prove that the devices should be put on hold until a court can determine whether its patents have been violated.
Both carriers could lose out if Apple gets Samsung’s products banned, but T-Mobile may be most at risk. It is the only major carrier that won’t have the iPhone 5 after this week’s expected launch. T-Mobile recently announced it would move forward with Android devices, saying the Galaxy S2 would be one of its flagship devices, along with the HTC Amaze. If the judge bans Samsung’s devices next week, T-Mobile may face significant financial difficulties.
Product bans are often threatened in such cases, but companies typically come to a licensing agreement that allows one company to collect fees in exchange for allowing a device to remain on the market. However, both Apple and Samsung are fighting aggressively, and the Galaxy tablet has already been banned in Europe. An Australian court is also expected to decide this week whether to ban the Galaxy in that country.
Meanwhile, the injunction won’t mean an end to the Apple-Samsung lawsuits, which may go on for some time, as Apple claims Samsung “slavishly copied” its devices and Samsung counter-claims Apple used its patents. The judge’s decision to accept the Verizon and T-Mobile briefs, though, could be an indication that more companies may become involved in the proceedings as they begin to feel the pinch of possible product bans.